CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jason Day fought through some wayward tee shots and his own self-doubt to shoot a 2-under 69 on Sunday and win the Wells Fargo Championship by two strokes over Aaron Wise and Nick Watney, his second victory of the season.
After squandering a three-shot lead on the back nine, Day’s tee shot on the difficult 230-yard par-3 17th hole crashed into the pin and settled less than 3 feet away. He made the putt to take a two-shot lead, becoming the only player to birdie the hole in the final round.
Day finished at 12-under 272.
“One of the best wins I have ever had,” said Day, who never felt on top of his game on Sunday.
He missed more than half the fairways — including an ugly hook into the water on the par-4 14th — hit just eight greens in regulation and made four bogeys on the day. But he toughed it out on the final three holes at Quail Hollow nicknamed the “Green Mile,” playing them in 2 under.
“You play sit there and play mental games with yourself, subconsciously saying, ‘You can’t do this. You’re going to fail, you’re going to fail,'” Day said. “I just kept on saying to myself, ‘Forget about it and keep pushing.'”
Day fell back into a tie with Wise after back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14, but regained the lead by draining a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th. That set up the shot of the tournament on the 17th, a hole with water short, left and long of the green that gave players fits all day because the putting surface was so firm that it was tough to stop the ball.
Day caught his break when the ball bounced four times and hit the flagstick, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
Day, who has had troubles with the closing hole in the past, then hit an iron off the 18th tee, knowing he had a two-shot lead. He got up-and-down from the rough right of the green to finish with a par.
It was the Day’s 12th career win on the PGA Tour. The former world No. 1 also won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year after a winless 2017.
Not your typical 7-iron from 230 yards …
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 6, 2018
The 21-year-old Wise had the best finish of his career. He was alone in second before Watney drained a 59-foot putt on the 18th. Day pumped his fist and cheered on his playing partner before he rolled in the winning putt.
If Day was expecting a challenge from some of the other high-profile players in the field, it never came.
Phil Mickelson opened with two bogeys, failing to capitalize on the momentum from his third-round 64. Mickelson started firing at flags and made six birdies, but finished five shots back after a 69.
Rory McIlroy concluded an up-and-down week with a 71 to finish at 3 under. Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas were one shot behind him.
Tiger Woods was a non-factor, shooting 74 to finish 14 shots back. He failed to make a birdie in the final round of a tournament for the first time since 2014.
“I didn’t putt well again,” Woods said. “The chances I did have, I missed them all. Just a bad week.”